Using Personification to Boost Your PPC Ad's CTR

ronald-mcdonaldWhen it comes to PPC ads, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, it's useful to look at what's already working in other channels and test to see if it would work for PPC ads as well. And usually it does!

A recent memo by Roy Williams got me thinking...

“Few techniques in communication are as powerful – or as often overlooked – as personification: ascribing human characteristics to inanimate objects. It turns dead corporate brands into living persons. Who are the Keebler Elves, the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean and Ronald McDonald if not personifications of the brands they represent?

... [But] Personification is much bigger and more elegant than mere mascots and logos. When conceived in words, lively words, personification summons the imagination and triggers the emotions...

...We gaze longer at pictures that have people in them than at pictures that have no people. I believe the same is true of words. We pay more attention to words that tell us of people than to words that don’t.”

Personification works wonders in mass media advertising, sales letters, and poetry. But can it work in PPC Ads too?

Apparently it does. Consider the PPC ad test below:


You’ll notice that the losing ad promises pretty much the same thing as the winning ad -- the ability to search through thousands of homes in a given area, with any searched on area being dynamically inserted into the ad. In fact, the losing ad actually promises more than the losing ad by telling the searcher that photos, prices, tours, and maps are available for each home.

So what does the winning ad have going for it that would produce a 52 percent increase in CTR?

Mostly personification.

Notice that the winning ad says that “1,000+ Homes Are Waiting for you in [location].” The homes have been personified, given the human characteristic of waiting. Nice!

But to be fair, that’s not ALL the winning ad does. It also bumps the inventory claim of “1000’s” into the headline. Of course, it does this at the sacrifice of keyword match-up, and decreased keyword match-up in the headline is usually associated with lower rather than higher performance. So that one is kind of a wash in my book.

Finally, the winning ad promises that the searcher will be able to look at and compare those 1000+ houses “for Free.” And that is a plus, as some listings charge for admittance.

But emphasizing "free" is an offer-dependent technique. So if you’re able to plug that in your ad, by all means test it. But not everyone can try that in their PPC ads. Moreover, "free" is no guarantee of increased performance either, because free can still feel risky.

So go ahead and test a more personified version of your PPC ads. And no matter how “un-personifiable” you think your product or service may be, just remember that in the example above, it was done for a bunch of bricks.

About the author

Named one of the top 20 most influential PPC experts by PPC Hero, Noran is a digital marketing consultant, columnist, speaker and instructor. She is a board member of the local Los Angeles chapter of SEMPO, as well as an Associate Instructor of the Master Certification in Conversion Optimization Course at Market Motive.

She specializes in analyzing the PPC customer journey, creating buyer momentum and optimizing their experience from click to conversion. Her passion for understanding today's customer is a key driver to her analysis of industry trends and keeping up with the latest in PPC, voice of customer, analytics, and conversion optimization.

In addition to writing for publications such as SES Magazine and ClickZ, Noran is also a frequent speaker at the SES conferences, the Internet Marketing Conference and the Online Marketing Summit.

When Noran is not online, she is either traveling or diving with sharks in the Red Sea.